Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Atrocity alert: Kitten vodka

Check out this news article, it's so disturbing what they do to the poor kittens!

March 26, 2008
SANTO, Texas - A cat breeder who calls himself Bayou Bob found a new way to make money: Stick a kitten inside a bottle of vodka and market the concoction as an "ancient Asian elixir." But Bayou Bob Popplewell's bright idea appears to have landed him on the wrong side of the law, because he has no liquor license.
Popplewell, who has raised kittens at Bayou Bob's Brazos River Cat Ranch for more than two decades, surrendered to authorities Monday. He spent about 10 minutes in jail after the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission obtained arrest warrants on misdemeanor charges of selling alcohol without a license and possessing alcohol with intent to sell.
If convicted, he faces up to a year in jail and $1,000 in fines.
Popplewell said he will fight the charges. His intent, he said, is not to sell an alcoholic beverage but a healing tonic. He said he has customers of Asian descent who believe the concoction has medicinal properties.
"It's almost a spiritual thing," said Popplewell, 63.
But alcohol commission agent Scott Jones pointed out that investigators confiscated 429 bottles of kitten vodka and one bottle of kitten tequila. At $23 a bottle, that's almost $10,000 worth of cat booze.
Even if Popplewell intended his drink be used as a healing tonic — an assertion the alcohol commission disputes — his use of vodka requires a state permit, authorities said.
"It's sold for beverage purposes, and he knows what he's doing," commission Sgt. Charlie Cloud said.
Popplewell said he uses the cheapest vodka he can find as a preservative for the kittens. The end result is a super sweet mixed drink that Popplewell compared to cough syrup.
"I've honestly never seen a person drink it," he said.
An Asian studies lecturer at the University of Texas said there is some merit to Popplewell's claim that kitten vodka could be seen as a tonic.
There's a street nicknamed "Cat Alley" in Taipei, Taiwan, where street vendors put the gall bladder of a freshly killed kitten into a glass of strong liquor. The drink, sold to the highest bidder, is supposed to improve eyesight and sexual performance, said lecturer Camilla Hsieh.
"It's like the ancient version of Viagra," Hsieh said.
Santo is located 60 miles west of Fort Worth.

Well, what do you think? Sick, isn't it? Can you believe that the police and journalist are only worried about the liquor license, and not the welfare of the poor kittens?

So, what if I told you that the article was actually about rattlesnakes put into alcoholic beverages, and I simply substituted the words kitten and cat every time there was the word "rattlesnake"? Does that change how your feel about it? If so, think long and hard about why.

In fact, this is an actual article I found on Yahoo news today. You can read it at:;_ylt=AtSwFQp2WK60_UEKmiPWBO7tiBIF

You may think I am incredibly clever and brilliant to pull the old bait and switch on your emotions, and of course this is indisputably true, but I was not very original here. Years ago I got an email titled "puppy roundups", in which the clever author described a rattlesnake roundup and simply substituted "puppy" for "rattlesnake." Unfortunately I cannot find that wonderful composition on the web, but it was quite formative for me.

Why is one type of animal's life worth more than another's? More pointed, why are rattlesnakes' lives considered worthless to the point that they are not even considered when worrying about a redneck selling cheap vodka?

As a sidenote, I found the adorable kitten photo above on a World of Warcraft forum, and the entry was titled "I will kill this cat." (!!!)

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Soul (Snake) Searching

Life has been presenting some strange and unique challenges to my sanity lately, so I decided to head out on Sunday for some soul-searching in the field. What better way than to look for snakes? Well, I don't think I found my soul, but I did find a sunburn, and a good number of our snakes. Here are a few quick photos of the beautfiful beasties:

#10, a huge male who has earned many questionable nicknames that cannot be posted here, due to his proclivity for courting the ladies (another week or two, and we expect more of those antics!):

#6, another large male:

#5, one of our biggest males:

#3, a beautiful black male:

A nice-looking male, not part of the study, who rattled at me from the exact same spot two weeks ago (I went back specifically looking for him, and there he was):

#19, a skinny female who will definitely not have babies this year:

#12, a gorgeous little female with a large meal in her belly (see how her scales are all stretched out, showing the skin in between?). Maybe it was a baby Easter bunny?

And finally, the wildflowers are beginning to put on quite a show. I had to pull over and take a photo on the way home:

Happy Easter, even to the bunny-eating snakes!

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Spring is here!

It's official. Spring is here. I don't pay any attention to calendars, etc.; it's spring when the lizards and snakes come out in force. And this has just happened on the Central Coast.
A couple of weekends ago my students and I took our first big group outing to our field site in the Carrizo Plain. I spent Saturday with the lizard crew, catching and marking lizards as part of a long-term study.

Ben and Kelsey photographing a pretty blue male Sceloporus:

Saturday night we had the first big dinner of the year, yum!

Sunday I joined the snake crew to track the rattlesnakes. About half of our snakes were out basking, and we found several new snakes as well. Here's a large male on SnakeOut Hill (so named by the students because so much snake amor has been witnessed there).

All of the snakes we captured, whether they were radiotagged or new captures, were well under normal body weight. In fact, the lizards seemed quite skinny as well. The drought last year took a terrible toll on the animals, and I really hope they recover this year so we can see how their movements and behaviors change.
Stay tuned for some snake amor photos soon! It will be happening any day now.